- Associated Press - Friday, May 2, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A federal judge refused Friday to dismiss a lawsuit challenging an Alabama immigration law that requires state officials to post on the Internet the names of people living in the state illegally who have run-ins with the law.

The so-called “scarlet letter list” was part of Alabama’s second immigration law that the Legislature passed in 2012. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center challenged it in federal court on behalf of four residents from Mexico who got arrested for fishing without an Alabama license.

State officials asked U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins to throw out the suit because they have never published the list. He refused in Friday’s 24-page opinion. He said state Law Enforcement Director Spencer Collier didn’t say that he wouldn’t publish the list until after the plaintiff’s attorneys told him that they planned to sue. He also noted that state officials have never said they wouldn’t compile the information for the list.

Friday’s ruling allows the plaintiffs to proceed with their legal challenge.

Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Sam Brooke said the decision by state officials not to publish the list now doesn’t mean they couldn’t try to do it later. “Our goal in this litigation is to keep this part of the law from being put into effect,” he said.

The law requires the state court system to compile a list of people living in the state illegally who have been arrested and appeared in court. Then the state’s law enforcement agency is supposed to publish the names on its website.

The plaintiffs contend the list would violate their due process rights and subject them to harassment.

Collier told the court that he had never published the list because it would constitute an improper use of federal immigration information and could jeopardize his agency’s access to federal immigration data.

State officials contacted for comment said they had not yet seen the opinion.

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